WHEN you got dressed up for a big night out in Bradford, in the 1970s and 80s, the Zodiac was the place to be.

For several years at that time the Little Horton Lane nightclub was owned by the Jakuba family. “We had 1,000-plus people in every week - more than half a million people came through our doors over the years,” says Roddy Jakuba, who worked at the Zodiac, and lived above it, as a young man.

It was very much a family affair. Roddy’s father Michael bought the property - the former Taylors social club - in 1972 and was the manager, while his wife Edith did the accounts. Roddy was assistant manager and creative designer and his sister worked behind the bar when she was home from university.

Roddy met his wife, Daria, at the club when she came to work there with members of her family.

“Dad was in his 50s when he opened it. As a family we had no experience of running a nightclub, but we created a very successful, popular venue where people could enjoy a meal, a dance floor and live music,” says Roddy.

“We had well known acts performing at weekends, and we had a party suite which was well used for wedding receptions and special birthday parties. We were licensed for 200 people on the ground floor and 120 in the party room.”

Adds Roddy: “People met their future wives and husbands at the Zodiac. There were many marriages among staff and customers.

“About 15 years after he’d sold the club Dad was in Bradford Royal Infirmary, and one of the nurses recognised him from the Zodiac. She’d met her husband there! Dad was very sociable, he talked to everyone in the club. He was small in stature but he had a strong personality. He’d go up to big 6ft 6in fellas, prod them in the chest and say, ‘This is my place. Behave yourself’.”

Michael initially planned to run it as a social club, but Roddy persuaded him to turn it into a disco. “Disco was the big thing of the time, but it was new to Bradford.” he says. “There were only about half a dozen clubs, including Annabella’s above the ice rink, which later became Heartbeat.

“We brought something different to the city centre; people dressed up to go there, and there was a whole evening of entertainment. Nearly all the other clubs and pubs were leaseholds. We were a freehold, very much a family business.

“I’m very proud of my dad, who came here from Ukraine with nothing. He nearly lost a leg in the war and spent a year in hospital. He came here after the war to work in mills then he set up a taxi business. He had a strong work ethic which he passed on to his family.”

Michael also worked as a builder and plumber, and ran a couple of shops on Oak Lane in Manningham, where the family lived.

“He slabbed fireplaces in the cellar and sold them, and his other shop sold wallpaper and paint,” says Roddy. “He learned many skills over the years and could turn his hand to anything, plumbing to roof repairs. When it came to refurbishing the club, we did it all ourselves in six months.

“Dad had always talked about having a club. When Taylors went up for auction I went with him to have a look. I was full of ideas of discos.

“It had been a traditional social club, with a galley bar serving two rooms, one with tables and chairs, the other with a snooker table. We completely transformed it. Outside we moved the pillars out and created a much larger opening and grand staircase up to the entrance. Inside we had fluid oil bubble lights projected onto walls, and a resin dance floor.

“When video came in later on we showed football and rugby matches on a projector.

“I sourced everything locally; we had fire resistant material from Lister’s Mill.

“The DJ was an electronic engineer - he built the music system.

“After about a year we re-modelled upstairs. We had about 12 staff on the ground floor and three or four in the party suite.”

Adds Roddy: “We had planned to open at Christmas but we had to put it back to March 1973 because we couldn’t get a licence until then. We opened Wednesday to Saturday, with live music on Fridays and Saturdays. We had acts like John Verity, The Tremeloes, Mud, Solitaire and Screaming Lord Sutch, and we had go-go dancers occasionally.

“One New Year’s Eve Pennine Radio came to do a live broadcast, with well known DJ Julius K Scragg, from the club. That was quite a night.”

The Zodiac quickly gained a reputation as a stylish venue, with a dress code. “We had a ‘no jeans’ policy, although later on when people started dressing more casually to go out we had to adapt,” says Roddy.

“Guests got hot food with their entrance ticket; on the ground floor we served basket meals, things like hamburgers and hot dogs, and also sandwiches. There was an intercom system in the kitchen and the food came down a dumbwaiter.

“Our logo was ‘Zodiac Man’, on our menus and tickets and adverts in the Telegraph & Argus.”

Roddy was 19 when the family took the club on. “I lived there, I was security guard, cellar man, I took beer deliveries and let the cleaners in.

“The Zodiac was next to the ice rink, I used to watch them re-glazing the ice from my bedroom window,” he recalls.

“We would close at 2am, I ran the staff home and often didn’t get back until 4am, just as the milk bottles were being delivered - then I would wake up to the barrel deliveries at 6am.”

The family sold the Zodiac club in 1985 and it became the Frog and Toad pub. “Dad was getting older and the club scene was changing; people were going to pubs first so weren’t drinking so much later in the evening, whereas in the early years they’d spend the whole night in the club,” says Roddy, who went on to run the Valley Gardens cafe in Harrogate with his wife, where the family business ethos continued, with their son and two daughters helping out.

The former Zodiac building was demolished in the 1990s but the club still has a place in the hearts of those who danced the night away there.

“I occasionally hear people’s memories of it. I recently saw a Facebook post from a waitress who married a doorman. Names I’d forgotten but now remember,” says Roddy. “The Zodiac was a special place to a lot of people.”